LABOUR’S policy of privatising the NHS by diverting huge chunks of the NHS budget to the private sector is preparing the bankruptcy of many NHS hospitals.
Such cash-strapped NHS hospitals will be deemed to have failed, and there is no doubt that Blair intends to hand them and their budgets over to the private sector, which will cut the hospitals savagely so that they can make a profit.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt is to caution dozens of hospital administrators about their finances after the unaudited accounts for 2004-5 showed that the NHS had a £140 million deficit.
In her letter to the ‘worst performing NHS trusts’, Hewitt warned them that they would not be bailed out. In other words, unless they savagely cut their costs they will be declared failed hospitals and handed over to the private sector.
She also warned, however, that trust services must not be compromised – locking them into bankruptcy while she poses as the defender of services.
But compromising the NHS is what her government is doing, 24 hours a day, with their boosting of the private sector at the expense of the NHS.
The latest example of this is Hewitt’s scheme to allow NHS ambulance staff to decide whether a casualty is a life-threatening emergency case and, therefore, if he or she needs an ambulance.
If they decide, over the phone, that he or she is not an emergency case, they will travel to the patient by car or motor bike, further diagose their problem and treat them on the spot in their home, making hospital treatment unnecessary.
This crude and deadly ‘dumbing down’ of the NHS is being called ‘bringing the hospital to the patient, instead of the patient to the hospital’.
To enable the ambulance staff to act as doctors, they are to be given a new title, ‘emergency care practitioners’, and some rudimentary training which will supposedly allow them to diagnose and treat casualties, perform tests, prescribe drugs and treat chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes.
The procedure for dealing with a situation where the ambulance staff gets it wrong and a patient dies who should have been rushed to hospital in an ambulance has not yet been revealed.
This entire scenario is dedicated to reducing the numbers of staff at accident and emergency departments, reducing the numbers of ambulances in service, reducing the costs of NHS hospitals and, of course, reducing the numbers of hospital patients, making the hospitals an even more juicy morsel for the private medical industry to pick up.
It is already being touted around that 90 per cent of calls to the emergency service could be dealt with in ways other than by rushing the patient to hospital.
The calculation is that one million current patients a year would be kept out of the hospitals, meaning there will be lots of cash savings – but, of course, less lives saved.
Yesterday the trade unions were understandably having great difficulty in swallowing this Hewitt arsenic treatment for the NHS.
Baulking at such a crude NHS-busting scheme, Ray Carrick from the Ambulance Services Unions said there were ‘health and safety difficulties’ with the plan.
‘If we’ve got staff going to an increased number of calls on their own, perhaps particularly female staff, then there are inherent difficulties attached to that and we need to be very cautious about how we approach it,’ he said.
The NHS trade unions must reject this Hewitt plan as another crude attack on NHS hospitals and patients, while Labour is fattening up the private medical industry by feeding it the NHS budget. Shortly, the government will be feeding the privateers entire hospital units!
The NHS trade unions must tell the government, stop the cuts, stop the privatisation or face industrial action that will bring you down, and bring in a workers’ government.